The Law Society has welcomed a move by lenders to create a single national repository of data about firms on conveyancing panels. Leading lenders, including Lloyds Banking Group and Santander, have set up a working group, facilitated by the Council of Mortgage Lenders, to develop the repository. The group says it aims to reduce fraud, remove duplication and speed up panel registration processes.
Law Society chief executive Desmond Hudson said the Society, which has been calling for a common solution to the issue of panel management for some time, ‘wholeheartedly’ supported the approach being taken. He said a common approach would remove duplication, cost and inefficiency - and promote freedom of choice, benefiting the public, lenders and solicitors alike.
‘We repeat our offer to make available our data and in particular Conveyancing Quality Scheme (CQS) data to any lender or for a common approach as is now envisaged,’ said Hudson.
He added: ‘This is a real opportunity to work collectively to find an efficient means to attack fraud, inefficiency and secure commonly held goals. The Law Society stands ready to assist in whatever way we can.’
Tracey Carr, financial crime manager at Santander, said: ‘A data repository where all lenders can access the same information will benefit both lender and lawyer firms, and could be used by lenders when establishing who they will allow on their panel, which will speed up the registration process and will eradicate duplication of data.’
However, she added that lenders agree they must keep their own panel criteria - ‘which is different for all lenders’.
Alison Clair, secured fraud external relations manager at Lloyds Banking Group, said the Law Society CQS could play a part in the scheme. ‘The introduction of the CQS is a step forward in the industry as the scheme will create an accredited community and more awareness of the fraud risks, which will help to deter fraud and drive up standards of conveyancing.’
A rise in mortgage fraud figures in recent years, along with guidance from the Financial Services Authority, has led lenders to explore ways to manage risk.
Some have sought to do so by limiting the number of firms that can work for them - notably HSBC, which in January announced it had created a panel containing only 39 solicitor firms.
CQS now has 1,300 member firms.